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Budget woes hit home as firefighters lose their jobs in Minneapolis
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Minneapolis firefighters say they are concerned that the layoffs will make residents of the city less safe. (Brandt Williams)
Friday is the last official day of work for 34 Minneapolis firefighters who have been cut to offset expected cuts in state aid. Some firefighters will return to jobs they held before joining the force; others face unemployment. But many say they are more concerned about what the layoffs will mean to the residents of Minneapolis.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Matthew May has just finished his last shift at Station 8 and soon will turn in his badge, identification and equipment. May, 30, is a recent graduate of the academy. And he is one of six firefighters in his station who are being cut. May says unlike many firefighters he knows, he has a job to go to. He will return to his former job as a welder, but he says he will miss everything about being a fire fighter.

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Image David Adkins

"You're making a difference in people's lives," says May. "You're having a positive affect on the city and its people. There's a little excitement there too. You're not sitting around in one place all day just working for someone's profit; you're doing something good."

"I'm really just going to miss the whole aspect of being a Minneapolis firefighter," says David Adkins.

Adkins will turn in his equipment after his shift ends on Friday. Adkins, 34, is engaged to be married next month. He'll return to a job as a probation officer after he's done at Station 8. Adkins says he and some of his colleagues feel a little angry and somewhat betrayed at how suddenly the layoffs came about.

A number of other fire fighters gave up careers. And some of us took pay cuts to make a commitment to the city of Minneapolis to become a Minneapolis firefighter.
- David Adkins

"A number of other firefighters gave up careers," says Adkins. "And some of us took pay cuts to make a commitment to the city of Minneapolis to become a Minneapolis firefighter."

Both Adkins and May say they don't believe Minneapolis taxpayers are aware that they no longer will be getting their money's worth from of the fire department. For example, May says last week, six firefighters from the district called in sick. A district contains several stations. May says because of the shortage of personnel, there weren't enough firefighters to staff a ladder truck in a station 25 blocks south of Station 8.

"We have to respond from here to cover that area, which adds an additional three minutes in our response time for a ladder truck," says May. "Any structure over two floors is going to be compromised because of that"

Chief Rocco Forte says he understands the frustrations voiced by Minneapolis firefighters. And he says he doesn't like the idea of laying any of them off. But the city of Minneapolis is facing the possibility of losing $20 million in Local Government Aid. And the fire department was told to cut nearly $3 million from this year's budget.

Forte says the department has plans in place to make sure the layoffs don't diminish public safety. "I believe the citizens are still going to be safe," says Forte. "We can obviously do a better job and keep everybody safer with more resources. We still have more resources than any fire department in the state."

Forte says there is a possibility some of the firefighters may be hired back if the final budget cuts aren't as severe as predicted. However, he says the department is still facing even more cuts next year.

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